KENTUCKY (3/6/14) — Tires are the link between a vehicle and the roadway, and tire quality has a direct impact on the performance and safety of an automobile. But tire maintenance is easy to overlook. However, ignoring tire maintenance can threaten driver and passenger safety and make a vehicle operate inefficiently.
Steering, breaking ability and traction are all governed by good tires. Worn tread can result in longer stopping times and make it difficult to brake immediately in an emergency situation. Although driving tends to be the primary culprit behind worn down tires, sometimes bald or unevenly worn out tread is indicative of a larger problem, such as a misaligned wheelbase, improperly aligned tires or tires that are underinflated. The following are some common problems associated with tires and how to address these issues should they arise.
Worn tire treads increase the risk of punctures, which can lead to blowouts. Bald tires also may blowout as a result of friction on roadways that is met with minimal rubber. Getting caught on the side of the road with a tire blowout can be a hassle, so routinely check tire treads and replace tires accordingly.
Average new tires on cars usually start with 10/32 inch to 11/32 inch of original tread depth. When tread reaches a depth of 2/32 inch, they are considered worn out. There are different ways to gauge tread depth. Insert a penny into the tread groove with Lincoln's head upside down and facing you. If you can see all of Lincoln's head, it is time to replace the tires. Another coin test is to insert a quarter into the groove. If the tread touches Washington's head, you have at least 4/32 inch of tread left. Don't have any currency on hand? Then look at the treadwear indicator bar molded into the tires. When these bars become flush with the adjacent ribs of the tire, the tires should be replaced.
According to the Rubber Manufacturers Association, improper alignment causes rapid or uneven treadwear. Tires should be aligned and balanced periodically to avoid irregular wear and having to replace tires prematurely.
Tires feature different tread patterns depending on the brand of tire. They may be directional, asymmetrical, nondirectional, and directional/asymmetrical. When purchasing replacement tires, it is adviseable to match the tread pattern to the existing tires. This helps enhance the performance of the car. In fact, some newer cars require tread to match. Mismatched treads may cause problems with transmission shifting or impact control and steadiness.
Underinflation of tires can cause failure, stress and irregular wear. Underinflated tires also may contribute to loss of control that leads to accidents. Always maintain the manufacturer's recommendations for the correct pressure, which should be adjusted based on the temperature.
Tires should undergo the same inspection and maintenance as other parts of the vehicle. Tires are a vital component to safe driving, and routine maintenance can prevent accidents and other problems.
Photo by Shawn Freels, SurfKY News
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